The roots of property disputes in Nineveh governorate go back to 2014 when ISIS swarmed Mosul and other major cities and towns in Nineveh governorate. At that time squatters occupied deserted houses and lands of people who fled ISIS. In the next three years, 2014 to 2017, a lot of properties in Nineveh governorate were destroyed amid the military operations against ISIS. Moreover, following the defeat of ISIS in end of 2017, squatters occupied deserted houses and lands of people who were known to be - or perceived as - ISIS affiliates or supporters. Property disputes has become a major challenge to the local and federal governments and a threat to the social cohesion and peace in Nineveh.
Since the beginning of 2018, Mercy Hands and partners have been working on resolving property disputes in Nineveh governorate, Iraq. First Mercy Hands started with two "Property Disputes Resolution" Centers in west and east sides of Mosul city, then in 2019 Mercy Hands opened three "Property Disputes Resolution" Centers, in Tel Kaif (8 miles north east of Mosul), Tel Afar (39 miles west of Mosul), and Tel Abta (45 miles south west of Mosul). Noteworthy, Mercy Hands is the only NGO that is currently working on resolving property disputes in Nineveh.
Each "Property Disputes Resolution" Center is staffed with three Community Engagement Officers, one Information Officer, and one Team Leader who is a Lawyer. Community Engagement Officers and the Information Officer are primarily responsible for identifying and preparing cases of property disputes then the lawyer will take on the case. First the lawyer, who is trained on mediation and negotiation, will try to resolve the dispute outside the court by mediating between the two parties but if that will not work then the lawyer will take the case to the court.
Tens of dispute cases have so far been resolved outside the court. Mercy Hands' lawyers have developed their conflict resolution, mediation, and negotiation skills on the job. The lawyer studies each case thoroughly, approaches the squatter of the property to negotiate with them, then mediates between the squatter and the owner of the property. Many times, to resolve the dispute, the lawyer will engage Mukhtar (head of the community), local tribal or religious leaders, and even relatives of the two parties in the mediation and negotiation process.
Interestingly, the highest rate of successful property dispute resolution by mediation is achieved by the only woman lawyer in the team, which supports the widespread belief that women are better mediators than men. "Men tends to behave better when the mediator is a woman and they do not like to turn down a request made by a woman", says Mr. Mohammed Al-Taei, Mercy Hands' manager of HLP (House, Land, Property) program in Mosul.